KIDS COUNT: Annual Survey Ranks Child Health Indicators
Nearly one out of seven U.S. children face family-related risk factors that hamper their ability to succeed, according to a newly released annual Kids Count survey sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Growing up in a single-parent home, having parents without high school educations or full-time jobs, living in poverty, relying on welfare and lacking health insurance are all risk factors that challenge American children. While many kids contend with one of these factors, nearly 9.2 million children are wrestling with at least four, the survey found. "Coping with any of these family risk factors is a challenge, but when these factors are combined, they tend to be mutually reinforcing, creating an environment of risk that reduces the chances for the long-term healthy development of children," the survey concluded. The AP/Nando Times reports that California has the highest number of children who grow up the most vulnerable, with 1.5 million kids having at least four risk factors. The District of Columbia has the highest proportion of children in the high-risk category, with 39%, followed by Louisiana with 22% and Mississippi with 21%. Nearly 30% of black children and 25% of Hispanic children fall in the high-risk category, the survey found (5/18). The results of the 1999 Kids Count survey, based on 1996 data measuring 10 indicators, can be accessed on the Annie E. Casey Foundation Web site, at aecf.org/kidscount/k c1999. Here are some findings from the survey:
- Louisiana: Ranks 49th in "well-being" of children, with percentage of low birth-weight babies at 9.9%, up from 8.7% in 1985; teen birth rate (births per 1,000 females ages 15-17) at 43%, down from 48% in 1985; infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) at 9%, down from 11.9% in 1985; and percent of children living in poverty at 32%, up from 28% in 1985 ( Baton Rouge Advocate, 5/18).
- Kentucky: Ranks 41st for the 10 indicators, with rate of low birth weight babies up by 13%, teen deaths by accidents up 9% and percentage of children in poverty up 4% to 25% in 1996. Kentucky fared better in other indicators, including infant mortality rates (down 33%), child death rate (down 7%) and teen birth rate (down 8%) (Jennison, Owensboro Messenger- Inquirer, 5/18).
- District of Columbia: Bottomed out in the reduction of teen birth rates, which increased by 49%; the percentage of children living in poverty, with 40%; infant mortality rate, despite a 28% improvement, and child death rate, with an 81% jump over 1985 figures (Washington Post, 5/18).
- Arizona: Ranking 46th, the state fell behind in the percentage of children living in poverty, climbing to 26% in 1996 from 25% the year before, and in the teen birth rate, which rose to 49 per 1,000 teens, up from 48 in 1995. The child death rate climbed to 32 per 100,000 kids ages 1 to 14, and the state ranks 50th in the number of children lacking health insurance (Amparano, Ar izona Republic, 5/18).
- Florida: Ranking 40th, the Kids Count survey found that the number of children living in poverty was 24% in 1996, up from 21% in 1985; percentage of low-weight babies was 7.9%, up from 7.5% in 1985; teen birth rate was 37%, the same as 1985. The infant mortality rate fell to 7.5% in 1996 from 11.3% in 1985, and the child death rate similarly dropped to 29 of 100,000 children ages 1 to 14, down from 42 in 1985 (Miami Herald, 5/18).
- Minnesota: Ranked third-best in measures, with only one in 11 children "off to ... a bad start," compared to one in seven nationwide (Cummins, Minneapolis Star- Tribune, 5/18).
- New Hampshire: Ranked overall best for the fourth year in a row, marking eight times in 12 years the state has held the top position (Taylor, Manchester Union Leader, 5/18).